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Future of Agriculture

This show explores the people, companies, and ideas shaping the future of agribusiness. If you are curious about innovations in AgTech, rural entrepreneurship, agricultural sustainability, and food security, this is the show for you! For more details on the guests featured on this show, visit the blog at www.FutureOfAg.com. Make sure you’re subscribed so you can catch another fascinating ag innovator next week!
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Jun 29, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Prime Future Weekly Newsletter: https://primefuture.substack.com/ 

Video of High Plains Ponderosa Dairy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s91pH9wNKOw 

Today’s episode covers some really progressive concepts in modern agriculture, and specifically modern dairy. Greg Bethard is the CEO of High Plains Ponderosa Dairy in Kansas. You’re going to hear from the lens of a producer how they are finding ways to lower their carbon footprint, produce both dairy and beef using the same resources, drive costs lower, and partner with companies like Shell to take their operation to the next level. 

Jun 22, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Verntures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Poultry Sense: https://www.poultrysenseltd.com/ 

Ancera: https://www.ancera.com/ 

For the first half of today's episode you’ll hear an interview with Alan Beynon, founder of Poultry Sense. Then in the second half you’ll hear from Ancera founder & CEO Arjun Ganesan, who I’ll formally introduce a bit late in the episode. 

Alan Beynon is a veterinarian in the UK who started Prognostix, which used to be called Poultry Sense, in 2016. As Alan will describe, he saw a lot of opportunity in the use of sensors and data to improve animal welfare and efficiency. Merck Animal Health Ventures invested in the company in 2019 and then ended up acquiring them in 2021. We talk a little bit about that part of Alan’s story as well.

Connecticut-based Ancera is a pioneer in microbial-based risk assessment and monitoring solutions. So what does that mean? They have a proprietary technology that enables near real-time, rapid detection and quantification of microbial threats across all points in the food production process, from farm-to-consumer. If that’s still sounding vague, the way I sort of understood it in my mind was that biological interactions are more complex than chemical interactions. So for any type of biological intervention it’s important to know more than just did it work or did it not work. We need more data about the dynamics at play, and that’s what Ancera does for their customers. Founder and CEO Arjun Ganesan shares details as well as some specific use cases.

Jun 15, 2022

 Philip Giampietro is the CEO and president of Walden Local Meat Company. Founded in 2014, Walden is New England and New York's leading brand of locally raised, sustainable meat. They are part of the first cohort of companies to legally reincorporate as a public benefit corporation or B-Corp. Philip says their purpose is to “make local work," with a more specific mandate to: 1) Connect adjacent rural and urban communities, 2) Produce the healthiest products possible with leading standards of animal welfare and environmental sustainability, and 3) Create incentives for farmers to move to more regenerative practices — those that are not simply "do less harm" but those that provide a net positive benefit to the environment and surrounding communities. Before Walden, Philip was a Director at Bain Capital and held various positions in private equity and consulting. 

 

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Walden Local Meat Co: https://waldenlocalmeat.com/

*SUBSCRIBE TO JANETTE BARNARD'S PRIME FUTURE NEWSLETTER: https://primefuture.substack.com/ 

Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

We have a great show for you today about what it takes to build a regional food system that can scale in today’s market that has very high expectations when it comes to taste, flavor, convenience, health, social and environmental impact, and beyond. Walden Local Meat has been building their company serving the Northeast U.S. since 2014. They have a great story about what it takes to make this approach work, and where they see the future of local and regional food systems headed. Some of you may know that I grew up in a direct-to-consumer specialty livestock business, so this concept is definitely of interest to me and near and dear to my heart.

Jun 8, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

AGI: https://www.aggrowth.com/

Farmobile: https://www.farmobile.com/ 

Today’s episode is a fascinating look at the value of farm data. Jason Tatge has been thinking about farm data for decades now, and you’re going to hear about the early days of trading data over the phone, to how that concept is basically what we know today as carbon credits and NFTs. He’ll also talk about how Ag Growth International or AGI is using Farmobile’s platform to connect data from all sorts of equipment including things like grain bins and dryers to reach unprecedented levels of interoperable farm data. Some really interesting topics to cover on today’s show, make sure you stay to the end to hear his vision for where all this stuff is going.

Jason is currently serving as a Senior Vice President for AGI Digital.  AGI Digital is the collection of technology assets that have been acquired by AGI. These include the companies of Intellifarms, Farmobile and CMC Hazard Monitoring. AGI, for those that don’t know, provides global equipment solutions for seed, fertilizer, grain, feed and food processing systems.They are a global equipment leader with several brands across five main areas: Grain, Fertilizer, Food, Feed and Seed. Jason came to AGI by way of acquisition of his company Farmobile last year.

He started his career though, in the same way I did: as a commodities trader. After seven years of that work, he was a co-founding employee of Farms.com, and then started his own company called Farms Technology, which was an electronic marketplace with automated hedging capabilities. He sold that company to DuPont Pioneer in 2012. 

JOIN THE FOA COMMUNITY: www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

Jun 1, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/ 

Blue Ocean Barns: https://blueoceanbarns.com/

Today’s episode features Joan Salwen, co-founder and CEO of Blue Ocean Barns. Joan grew up in the long shadow of her family’s Iowa farm where she harvested cherries and cared for the sheep. During 20 years as a Managing Director at Accenture, Joan managed $50M+ client relationships and led the firm's Atlanta practice for organization and change strategy. In 2015, Joan transitioned to Stanford, where she built a team that energized university, market and government interest in seaweed as a solution to climate change. She founded Elm Innovations, a non-profit platform for exploring the potential of the seaweed-livestock connection and ultimately co-founded the commercial engine for it, Blue Ocean Barns in 2019. 

I’m very excited to share today’s episode with you. There is so much here. Not only does this project have incredible incredible potential to reduce methane emissions. But also this is an incredible entrepreneurial journey Joan went through to resurrect old research in this area, support further research, commercialize the venture, then figure out how to grow, process and distribute the product at a scale that could be meaningful for the future of agriculture.

May 25, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

EverAg: https://www.ever.ag/

Dairy.com: https://www.dairy.com/

Prime Future: https://primefuture.substack.com/ 

Today’s episode is really a unique opportunity to hear from someone who has been working on what it means to digitize agriculture supply chains for over two decades. I can’t think of anyone who better understands the potential here for our industry, but also the reality of the challenges that lie ahead than Scott Sexton of EverAg and Dairy.com.

Dairy.com is a leading provider of software, risk management, and market intelligence solutions for the dairy industry. The company was formed in 2000 by investors that included eight of the largest dairy cooperatives, and since that time continued to grow based off just that initial investment and their own earnings until they brought in an outside investor just a few years ago in 2019 and started expanding into some new areas that Scott will talk about with this new umbrella company called EverAg. 

I’m very pleased to bring back everyone’s favorite co-host, creator of the Prime Future Weekly newsletter, ruminants lead at Merck Animal Health Ventures, and my good friend Janette Barnard.

Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

May 18, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Jan Willem van Groenigan https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Jan-Willem-prof.dr.ir.-JW-Jan-Willem-van-Groenigen.htm

Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JWvanGroenigen

YouTube videos: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJz4ijSeqjg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vt77IvHaZuY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6em_8iFfKIk 

Jan Willem van Groenigan is a professor of Soil Biochemistry at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. He is a trained soil fertility specialist, and him and I originally connected about some soil carbon sequestration work that he was a part of. You’ll hear from one of his co-authors about that on a future episode. But when he told me that he was spending a lot of his time these days focused on the role of earthworms in agricultural soils, I knew I had to get him on the show to talk about that topic. He has been a part of several studies on earthworms such as their effect on crop yields, soil fertility, and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which we will talk about in today’s episode. I found his comments on phosphorous to be particularly interesting and important. First though, I’m going to drop you into the conversation where he gives you some more background in his own words, and we’ll take it from there. Enjoy this conversation about earthworms with Jan Willem van Groenigan. 

 

Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

May 11, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor, Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Innovating Agtech: https://soundcloud.com/user-73017811

SomaDetect: https://somadetect.com/

Books: Adventure Finance, Farm and Other F Words, The Third Plate

Today’s featured guest is Hannah Senior. Hannah grew up in a farming community but followed a career into corporate life working with multinational companies, including 5 years with the retailer Tesco.  She completed an MBA at Stanford University before returning to the UK and agriculture, when she acquired PBS International, a company which makes products for plant breeders and seed producers around the world.   She describes her professional expertise as a stool with three legs, spanning agricultural technology, entrepreneurship & plant breeding.  Hannah holds Board and advisory positions with several AgriTech companies including Crop Health and Protection, the UK’s government-backed Agritech centre for Crops, and is Vice President of the National Association of Plant Breeders (although if this goes out in late August I’ll be President by then!). She is the host of two podcasts: Plant Breeding Stories, which interviews a diverse range of people in and around plant breeding, and Innovating AgTech is an audio documentary about how to better align interests in AgTech entrepreneurship between the environment, farmers, entrepreneurs and investors.  

I first connected with Hannah as she was putting together this Innovating Agtech documentary-style podcast, and was very eager to both listen to the six-part series, and share some of her takeaways and perspectives with you here today.

Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

May 4, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures! https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Loftus Labs: https://www.loftuslabs.com/

FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

Today’s episode is all about farm business data and analytics. The story is different from others you’ve probably heard about though, in that Loftus Labs is not selling a product. They offer a service to help farmers to build customized processes to gain deeper insights into their unique business. Long time listeners might recall my interest in there being a “Geek Squad for agriculture”, this is like what I had in mind, but actually a lot better. 

Patrick Smith and Dan Maycock are two of the co-founders of Loftus Labs. Pat is a fourth generation farmer and the CEO of Loftus Ranches in the Yakima Valley in Washington state. They grow primarily hops and apples, and they are vertically integrated: selling hops to breweries around the world, and packing and marketing apples both in partnership with other growers in the area.

You probably know that Washington and apples go hand in hand, but you may not know that the Yakima Valley is the most important hops growing region in the world. The 50-mile stretch of the valley where Loftus is located grows 75% of the nation’s hops and about 25-30% of the world’s production annually depending on the year. 

Our conversation today is about the data and business analytics journey that Pat has gone down and what led him to form Loftus Labs with a cofounding team that includes our other guest today, Dan Maycock. Dan’s background is in data engineering with companies you will have heard of like Boeing and Amazon. Their business is really interesting, and I think directly addresses the some aspects of agtech that often get overlooked. Such as the fact that every farm is different and needs customized solutions, and that the many of the tools already exist and what are lacking are implementation partners and support.

Apr 27, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures! https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Floating Farm: https://floatingfarm.nl/

Vence: https://vence.io/ 

We have a fascinating story today about the world’s first floating farm. To some of you that may sound far fetched or maybe even like a gimmick, but I assure you it’s anything but. And it can open our minds to new possibilities for what and where a farm can be. Even a livestock farm. 

Today's episode features both Peter and Vincent van Wingerden. Peter has a background in engineering and started his company to build large buildings on the water. His experience in New York City in 2013 prompted him to focus full time on the concept of a floating farm. He’ll talk more about that in the moment. Joining Peter is his son Vincent, who also happens to work in agtech with Microsoft. Vincent is a Technical Architect for data and AI and ag is one of the sectors he is working in. It was so great to have both Peter and Vincent on the interview to talk about the floating farm, and about agricultural technology and sustainability more broadly. 

Stay tuned to the end of the episode for a short profile on Vence, a company we featured by in 246 and has since become a portfolio company of Merck Animal Health Ventures. 

Support the Future of Agriculture podcast by joining the FoA community! www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

Apr 20, 2022

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures! https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

Unfold website: https://unfold.ag/

John Purcell LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jppurcell/

Unfold Twitter: https://twitter.com/Unfold_Ag 

John Purcell, Ph.D. has worked in agriculture for over 30 years, including  long career at Monsanto and then Bayer. For the past dozen or so years before leading Unfold he worked in their vegetable seed division. His earlier work led to innovations for crops such as corn, cotton, and wheat. John earned his Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the USDA before going into industry. He is also part owner of a family ranching operation in Montana. 

John started thinking about genetics for vertical farming while still at Bayer, but they decided that the vertical farming industry was so different, it not only needed it’s own products, but it’s own company focused on it. It was at that time that Bayer and investment company Temasek formed Unfold as it’s own independent startup focused exclusively on vertical farming. John was tasked with building this company from scratch. 

**JOIN THE FOA COMMUNITY: www.patreon.com/agriculture

Apr 13, 2022
Thank you to our presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures! https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

StockCropper website: https://thestockcropper.com/

StockCropper YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheStockCropper

Zack Smith Twitter: https://twitter.com/zebulousprime

Today’s episode really speaks to the core of what this podcast is all about. We look at the current trajectory of where agriculture is headed, identify some of the negative outcomes associated with that trajectory, and explore how people and technology can play a role in creating a better future. I’m excited to share with you today’s conversation with farmer and Stockcropper co-founder Zack Smith.

If you’ve listened to the episode with Joe Bassett, or the recent episode with Paul Greive of Pasturebird, or if you spend any time on ag twitter or ag youtube, you probably have an idea of what the StockCropper is all about. But today’s episode goes deeper into why these types of innovations are important. We talk about consolidation in ag and its impact on rural communities. Zack shares about his journey into soil health and how that’s changed his operation and led him to the point that he felt it was critical that he find a way to incorporate animals onto his crop land. And we talk about these two diverging paths of being the low cost producer vs being a value added producer. A lot of great stuff in today’s episode. 

It used to be common practice for farmers to raise a diverse mix of animals and crops in a somewhat integrated system. Over the years through technological and policy changes, most farmers became more specialized, and today the majority of our crops and livestock are produced separate from each other. However, this creates other challenges that Zack will talk more about, and there is a growing push to try to integrate crops and livestock more for the sake of soil, the environment, and rural economies. StockCropper is creating a system to help with this. Their first product is the world’s first multi-species, solar-powered, electrically-driven, autonomous mobile grazing system, called the ClusterCluck. Zack’s going to talk a lot more about the system and what it represents for the future of agriculture.

 

 

Apr 6, 2022

Thank you to our quarterly presenting sponsor Merck Animal Health Ventures: https://www.merck-animal-health.com/animal-health-ventures/

I’m very pleased to welcome the leader of the Merck Animal Health Ventures Team, Stephen Murray, joining me on today’s episode. Originally brought up on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand, Stephen spent the first part of his career as a dairy veterinarian in that country. He decided to leave private practice for industry, which led him through a series of roles and acquisitions to working for Merck Animal Health in 2011. Stephen built the animal health ventures group from its foundation in 2016 - developing the team, ways of thinking and processes that are needed to invest, partner and work with young technology businesses that are of strategic interest to Merck Animal Health. 

Today’s episode covers how an established industry leader embraces technology as a core competency, what the acquisition of Antelliq meant to that end, the role of strategic investors in the early stage startup ecosystem, and his thoughts for where the future of animal agtech is headed.

Mar 30, 2022

Today's episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture: https://www.sound.ag/

The Yield: https://www.theyield.com/

"From Farms to Incubators" book: https://bookshop.org/books/from-farms-to-incubators-women-innovators-revolutionizing-how-our-food-is-grown/9781610355759 

Joining us on today’s show is Ros Harvey, founder and CEO of The Yield, which is an Australian agtech company that focuses on leveraging data science to provide large specialty crop producers with digital playbooks to improve farming operations and supply chains. The Yield is planning an expansion into the U.S. market this year after establishing themselves in Australia over the past seven years. We have an interesting conversation about their approach to farm data, why their playbook is a different approach from other digital ag companies, her thoughts on data ownership, and the need for more holistic approaches to agtech. 

Mar 23, 2022

Kristjan Hebert Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristjanHebert

Kristjan Hebert website: https://kristjanhebert.com/

Hebert Grain Ventures: https://hebertgrainventures.com/

"Traction" by Gino Wickman

"Get a Grip" by Gino Wickman

"Rocket Fuel" by Gino Wickman

Joining me again on today’s show is Kristjan Hebert. Kristjan is the managing partner of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV), a 30,000 acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan. If you listened to the last episode, you already know that this is part two of the interview, and I highly encourage you to go back and listen to part one if you haven’t done so yet. Kristjan talked in that episode about his transition from working in accounting to coming back to his family’s farm, the business principles and processes he has put in place to grow his operation, and a lot of just great business advice relevant to not just farmers, but anyone who is trying to run their business better. 

 

We continue that theme today as we dive into the operating system that Kristjan uses to run his company. When I say operating system, some of you might think I mean software, and that’s not what I mean at all. This is adapted from a program called the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS. We talk about the principles involved which include vision, people, data, issues, process, and traction. 

 

Kristjan describes his scorecard of 15 key metrics that he tracks to make sure his business is performing well and headed in the right direction. In the last episode he talked about some of the financial metrics that are included in the 15, but today he’ll go into some of the other important metrics he tracks.

Mar 16, 2022

Today's episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture: https://www.sound.ag/

Kirstjan Hebert: http://www.kristjanhebert.com/

HGV: https://hebertgrainventures.com/

Maverick Ag: https://maverickag.com/

Kristjan Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristjanHebert

Joining me on today’s show is Kristjan Hebert. Kristjan is the managing partner of Hebert Grain Ventures (HGV), a 30,000 acre grain and oilseed operation in southeast Saskatchewan. After a brief stint at accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny, he came back to farming with a focus on profitability. He is a graduate of Texas A&M’s The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP), which you will hear reference a couple of times today.  Danny Klinefelter of TEPAP, whose name will also come up in the interview, refers to Kristjan as “one of the most progressive young farmers he knows”. On top of all of that, Kristjan is also the co-founder of online farm labor platform WorkHorse Hub as well as Maverick Ag - providing custom designed lending, accounting, and insurance solutions to producers.

 

For this interview, I’m doing something I almost never do: I’m splitting it into two episodes because I thought there was so much here worth your time. In part one today, we talk about the financial lessons he learned from being a CPA that he now applies to his farm, the importance of building a team, dealing with landlords, how is thinking about policy and sustainability, and more. Next week we will go over the operating system he uses to do all of this as well as some of his views on agtech - so that’s just a teaser to listen in again next week. 

Know some other strategic, forward-thinking, unconventional producers that should be featured on this show? Email me: tim@aggrad.com

Mar 9, 2022
Today’s episode is brought to you by Sound Agriculture: https://www.sound.ag/

Suma Reddy LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suma-reddy-0285386/

Future Acres: https://www.futureacres.co/

Wavemaker Labs: https://www.wavemakerlabs.com/ 

JOIN THE FOA COMMUNITY: www.patreon.com/agriculture

Joining me on today’s show is Suma Reddy, the co-founder and CEO of Future Acres. Suma’s company builds advanced mobility and AI solutions for farms, starting with a robot called Carry, an autonomous harvest companion that increases production efficiency, improves farmworker safety, and provides real time data and analytics. So think like a fully autonomous cart or wheelbarrow that transports table grapes from where they are picked to where they are loaded out of the vineyard. 

We definitely talk more about Future Acres in this episode and Suma’s vision for the intersection of people and technology in agriculture. We also talk about the labor problems that technologies like this help solve. But mostly, we talk about ideas for funding companies like this. Especially, the venture studio that Future Acres was born out of, what they’ve learned from equity crowdfunding, and a tiny little bit on leveraging communities of people to form special purpose vehicles or SPVs which are ad hock groups of investors that participate alongside VCs or angel investors. So much fascinating stuff covered in this episode. 

Suma’s career got started as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali working with smallholder farmers. From there, she joined a high growth microfinance startup in India which IPO’d and eventually sold for a couple billion dollars. Then she returned home to the U.S., and after business school jumped into climate and agriculture with renewable energy projects followed by cofounding an indoor ag startup called FarmShelf. But she felt pulled back to outdoor agriculture and she found this opportunity to start Future Acres at a venture studio, and that is where we dive into today’s episode with Future Acres CEO Suma Reddy. 

Mar 2, 2022

Previous guests featured: 

Richard Waite

Dan Kittredge

Jason Persall

Paul Winters

Xin Yi Lim

Mark Remmert

Sarah Mock

Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

For most of the history of industrial agriculture, consumers demanded of the food system four foundational criteria: price, safety, taste and convenience. This has not changed, nor do I have reason to believe it will in the future. What has changed is that we have realized that if we make those our only criteria, we fall victim to a host of other problems: health problems, climate change, environmental degradation, inequities, and unfortunately the list goes on. 

 

New values have emerged from consumers that want more out of our food system beyond just the price, safety, taste and convenience which of course remain vital. 

After spending some time reflecting on the past 300 episodes of this show, I’ve compiled a list of seven consumer values that I think will continue to shape the future of the ag industry, and I’ve drawn from former guests to share them with you today. 

Now I realize fads come and go. But I don’t think we’re talking about fads here. I think we are talking about underlying values that will continue to inform the way consumers eat, buy, and vote in the future. And we as an ag industry ought to be aware of them and factor them into our strategies for the future of agriculture.

  1. Climate Impact
  2. Nutrition/Health
  3. Connection to an Authentic Source
  4. Fun & Social Experiences
  5. Hunger and Poverty Alleviation
  6. Waste Reduction
  7. Social Impact
Feb 23, 2022

Pasturebird: www.Pasturebird.com Prime Future newsletter: https://primefuture.substack.com/ 

Join the FoA Community: www.patreon.com/agriculture 

Paul Greive and his in-laws decided to raise 50 chickens in their ¼ acre backyard, when those sold quickly he bought more, eventually becoming the largest pastured poultry producer in the country. 

To scale Pasturebird, they built their own automated range coop to autonomously move 6,000 birds to new pasture every day using solar energy. This growth and innovation caught the attention of one of the largest animal protein companies in the country, Perdue Farms, who acquired Pasturebird in 2019.

Janette Barnard returns to co-host today’s episode which is an incredible story of entrepreneurship, technology, regenerative farming, and a glimpse into the future of agriculture.

 

Feb 16, 2022
Farmland LP: https://www.farmlandlp.com/ Join the FoA Community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

Today’s episode is a unique approach to farmland investing. Farmland LP buys farmland and adds value by doing things like planting higher value crops, converting to certified organic, and implementing regenerative farming practices. The company then leases the land back out to farmers who agree to maintain these practices. Joining us on the show today is Farmland LP founder and managing partner Craig Wichner. Craig founded Farmland LP in 2009 and is responsible for day-to-day management, business strategy and all investment activity. He is a seasoned executive with nearly 30 years of experience building companies and investing.  Craig has also helped to manage his family’s real estate portfolio of apartment buildings for over 25 years. He also serves on the board of BN Ranch, Bill Niman’s successor company to Niman Ranch. 

Craig and I have a fascinating and wide ranging conversation about investing in farmland, their strategies for acquiring property and adding value, and how he is thinking about the future of agriculture and this asset class of farmland. As you’re about to hear, Craig’s not afraid to call it like he sees it, especially when it comes to sustainability related topics. He sees a lot of greenwashing going on in agriculture and wants to see more data-backed metrics of improving the lands in which we farm.

Feb 9, 2022
Leaf Agriculture: https://withleaf.io/

GROWMARK: https://www.growmark.com/

FoA 238: 5 Barriers Limiting Agtech: https://aggrad.libsyn.com/foa-238-5-barriers-limiting-agtech-and-the-companies-breaking-through-them

FoA 275: Digital Infrastructure for Ag Supply Chains: https://aggrad.libsyn.com/foa-275-digital-infrastructure-for-ag-supply-chains-with-jake-joraanstad-and-jesse-vollmar-of-bushel 

Bailey Stockdale is the CEO of Leaf Agriculture which builds developer tools for agriculture. What that means exactly is what we’re going to spend most of today’s episode talking about, but in the meantime, you can think of them as the company that enables integrations between technology providers so that the user experience is seamless. In other words, technology users will never know they exist. Their customers are technology providers in the industry. 

People like Brendan Bachman, who joins Bailey and I on today’s show. Brendan is the Senior Agronomy Technology Manager at GROWMARK/FS, which is one of the largest producer owned coops in the U.S. Brendan has worked there for about 16 years in various agronomy and technology capacities. For the past five years he’s been in thor sole working in strategy and implementation of different ag technologies with their various member companies and working with agtech companies to help them find market fit with growers.

After Bailey’s first appearance on this podcast in episode 238 we also featured Bushel in episode 275 diving deeper into the concept of digital infrastructure. Both of those would be great to re-listen to with this one. Today you’re going to get something though that you didn’t get in those past two episodes: a tangible example of why digital infrastructure is needed, how companies like leaf work with technology providers, and we’ll end with a deeper exploration into how an infrastructure provider makes money, differentiates themselves, and deals with competition. This is a different episode, but one I found really fascinating. One technical note: Bailey’s air pods failed us towards the end of the interview, so you’ll notice his audio quality change pretty drastically. But stick with it: he has some really interesting comments towards the end about how all of this plays out for the future of agriculture. 

 

**JOIN THE FOA COMMUNITY: www.Patreon.com/agriculture

Feb 2, 2022

FarmRaise: www.FarmRaise.com 

Building a startup in ag? Email me: tim@aggrad.com 

Support this show and join the FoA community: www.Patreon.com/agriculture   

A point we try to drive home as often as possible here is that innovation on its own doesn’t really get anywhere until it can be implemented. For agriculture, that often means that the ideas we talk about here on this show need to actually work for farmers. So for the future of agriculture to be more data-driven or more technological or more regenerative, the tools and practices will have to be executable. And for farmers to find this out, they will need to experiment with them. Which is very risky.

Luckily there are programs to help absorb some of that risk. A lot of them involve free money in the way of grants, or very cheap loans. But to access these programs requires an often tedious process of seeing if you are eligible then applying then waiting to hear back then keeping up with the ongoing reporting. 

Lowering these barriers is exactly where FarmRaise comes in. Jayce Hafner is the co-founder and CEO of FarmRaise. What’s interesting about this episode is not only the impact they are having for farmers, nearly 10,000 so far and $9M in funding applications, but also where they hope to take the company. Today, they offer a freemium model where a farmer can check their eligibility on 15 programs for free or pay $25/month to check eligibility on hundreds of programs, apply to them in less than 15 minutes, and get ongoing support. 

Jayce sees this as just the beginning. This valuable service can grow into many more financial services including lending, ecosystem services, and even tax support. In the interview I compare it to H&R Block for farmers, but she quickly corrects me that it’s more like TurboTax. Which is fair. FarmRaise just announced they closed a $7.2M seed round led by Susa Ventures as well as angel investments from some notable names including former podcast guest Zach Johnson (The Millennial Farmer). They also have some really interesting distribution partnerships with Corteva and Cargill with others scheduled to be announced this year. We talk about that as well. There’s so much here to dive into and I think you’ll find this full interview to be well worth your time.  

Jayce grew up on a livestock farm in Virginia, where she saw first hand how these financial incentives can improve a farming operation. Before FarmRaise, she invested in agriculture with SLM Partners, completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Trinidad and Tobago, and worked on environmental sustainability at Apple. Jayce has led policy coalitions at several United Nations COP climate negotiations and founded a record-breaking conservation coalition that mobilized 100,000 citizens to advocate for the Arctic Refuge. She has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, an MS in Agriculture from the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. 

Jan 26, 2022

Sound Agriculture: https://www.sound.ag/

Support this show: www.Patreon.com/agriculture 

Today, I’m excited to bring you an interview with a very interesting company in agtech, and a unique one in many ways. Adam Litle is the CEO of Sound Agriculture. Which is in the “sound science” sense of the word not the audio sense of the word. They have some really interesting scientific approaches to, on one hand, activating beneficial microbes to provide more nutrition to crops. And on the other hand to perform what they call on-demand breeding, which doesn’t actually change the genetics of the crop but blocks expression of certain genes by soaking the seed in a specific protein. Each of these individually is a pretty exciting innovation in agriculture, but I wanted to know where do they intersect? In other words, why is this one business instead of two? We get into that as well as some of the challenges of bringing innovations like this to the market, and much more on today’s episode. 

As CEO, Adam leads the company’s strategy and overall company execution. He joined Sound to help serve both producers and consumers with more sustainable, differentiated crops. Prior to Sound, Adam was on the founding team and served as Chief Revenue Officer of Granular, the leading farm management software company acquired by Corteva in 2017.

Jan 19, 2022

Grounded Capital Partners: https://www.groundedcapitalpartners.com/

How would you rate the Future of Agriculture podcast using a scale of conventional (1) to aspirational (10)? Where along that spectrum do you think it should be? Email me at tim@aggrad.com to let me know or send me a DM on Twitter or LinkedIn. 

Our guest today, Stephen Hohenrieder was first on the show back in episode 216 to talk about building a more distributed system. It remains one of my most popular episodes, and I still highly recommend it even after you listen to this one. In that interview in 2020, Stephen mentions that he is working on developing a more permanent investment vehicle to carry out some of his investment theses about the future of food. What he was describing is now Grounded Capital Partners, and I wanted to invite him back to talk about his work. 

Stephen has over a decade of focus on regenerative food systems, having invested, studied and collaborated across diverse categories of food and agriculture — proteins, fruits and vegetables, nuts and consumer packaged goods. His perspectives were shaped by a systems approach, the teachings of others, observations in exploring a thesis for how our food system is evolving, and a belief that all stakeholders are interdependent. Since 2017, Stephen has served as the CEO & CIO of Meyer Family Enterprises, an entrepreneurial impact-focused single-family office in the Napa Valley, where he oversees entities that include direct investments, real estate and farming.

Join the FoA community at patreon.com/agriculture. 

Jan 12, 2022

Granular: www.granular.ag

Platinum Ag Services: https://platinum.ag/ 

We have on the show Cassie Misch who is an independent crop consultant and the owner of Platinum Ag Services located in Northwest Indiana. As part of her offerings to farmer customers, Cassie is a Certified Services Agent for the Granular Agronomy suite of services. One of those farmer customers is Jake Smoker, who also joins us on today’s show. Jake farms with his father, Greg, in LaPorte County, Indiana where they grow corn, beans, wheat, non-GMO corn, non-GMO beans, cattle, and seed corn for Corteva/Pioneer. Jake and his wife Jill were also just recognized this week with the American Farm Bureau Achievement Award, so congratulations to them.

Cassie and Jake will talk about how they have worked together to leverage technology to improve yield and efficiency on the Smoker Farm. There’s some real insights here on what’s possible when the right ag technology is fully supported by the right people.

As you may recall with this tech-enabled advisor series, I wanted to hear from different types of guests who each are using different types of technologies. In order to do that, I have sought out companies to partner with on each individual episode of this series. Today’s show was produced in partnership with Granular. Many of you listening are familiar with Granular, and you may even remember the episodes I did with them back in 2019, which were episodes 135, 136, 137, 138, and 153. They’ve been some of our most popular episodes ever, so I highly recommend re-listening to those. Granular is more than just a Farm Management tool. They deliver science and service for successful nitrogen management, especially in a year where prices have gone up so dramatically. Granular’s Certified Services Agents, people like Cassie, are an incredible resource to help farmers explore and push the needle as they try new software. Learn more about them at Granular.ag and thank you Granular for partnering with me on today’s episode.

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